Jun 20 2008

Senate Panel Moves $57.9 Billion C-S-J Bill

Congress Daily AM

By Otto Kreisher

The Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday unanimously approved a $57.9 billion measure to fund the Commerce and Justice departments, NASA and an array of scientific and environmental research agencies.

Despite its bipartisan support, the bill faces a potential veto because it provides $4.2 billion more than President Bush requested.

Senate Appropriations Chairman Robert Byrd said the increased funding in the Commerce-Justice-Science appropriations bill was part of a total of $21 billion above the president's budget request that the congressional budget resolution authorizes.

"This allocation will permit the committee to support our troops and address critical needs here at home," Byrd said in opening the full committee's first markup session. He said he hoped the president would not follow through on his threat to veto the spending bills.

The chairman said he and Appropriations ranking member Thad Cochran were determined to approve all 12 "bipartisan, fiscally responsible appropriations bills" by the end of July.

When committee members complained that some of the Senate-approved provisions included in the first attempt at an war supplemental were stripped from the bill the House passed Thursday, Byrd said he expected the committee would have to mark up another supplemental to fund emergency relief for the Midwest flooding, which could include some of those items.

Commerce-Justice-Science Subcommittee Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., said the bill was the result of "bipartisan cooperation" and sent a message of support to the law enforcement community. Most of the funding above Bush's request was for law enforcement, including a restoration of grants to state and local law enforcement, which were cut in the president's budget, Mikulski said.

Commerce-Justice-Science Subcommittee ranking member Richard Shelby, R-Ala., said the bill "funds some of the nation's most important areas" and urged its approval.

The bill would provide $25.8 billion for the Justice Department, $2.7 billion above the president's request.

The Commerce Department would get $9.4 billion, $1.2 billion more than Bush wanted, which includes an additional $540 million for the Census Bureau to help overcome a failed attempt to acquire hand-held calculators with which to conduct the 2010 census.

In the science field, the bill would give NASA $17.8 billion, which includes $199 million additional funding for the manned systems to replace the space shuttles, after they are retired in 2010.